If you’re a classic gamer, you’ve probably had the unhappy experience of firing up a beloved older title you haven’t played in a decade or two, squinting at the screen, and thinking: “Wow. I didn’t realize it looked this bad.” The reasons why games can wind up looking dramatically worse than you remember isn’t just the influence of rose-colored glasses — everything from subtle differences in third-party hardware to poor ports to bad integrated TV upscalers can ruin the experience. One solution is an expensive upscaling unit called the Framemeister but while its cost may make you blanch, this sucker delivers. Unfortunately, taking full advantage of a Framemeister also may mean modding your console for RGB output. That’s the second part of the upscaler equation. Most every old-school console could technically use RGB, which has one cable for the Red, Green, and Blue signals, but many of them weren’t wired for it externally unless you used a rare SCART cable (SCART was more common in other parts of the world). Modding kits or consoles cost money, but if you’re willing to pay it, you can experience classic games with much better fidelity.
Anita Sarkeesian, the creator of Tropes vs. Women — a video series exploring negative tropes and misogynistic depictions of women in video games — reports that she has been driven from her home after a series of extremely violent sexual threats made against her. Her videos have previously drawn criticism from many male gamers, often coupled with violent imagery or threats of violence.
The threats against Sarkeesian have become a nasty backdrop to her entire project — and her life. If the trolls making them hoped for attention, they’ve gotten it. They’ve also inexorably linked criticism of her work, valid or not, with semi-delusional vigilantism, and arguably propelled Tropes vs. Women to its current level of visibility. If a major plank of your platform is that misogyny is a lie propagated by Sarkeesian and other “social justice warriors,” it might help to not constantly prove it wrong.
Episode 19 was recorded Monday, July 28, 2014.
Thanks to a drunken conversation on Twitter, the nerdcore rapper YT Cracker joins us for the episode, where we discuss the faults of the music industry and the gaming industry, his music career, and more. Check it out. It was a great show. Click here to download it.
We’re often told that having a kill switch in our mobile devices — mostly our smartphones — is a good thing. At a basic level, that’s hard to disagree with. If every mobile device had a built-in kill switch, theft would go down — who would waste their time over a device that probably won’t work for very long? Here’s where the problem lays: It’s law enforcement that’s pushing so hard for these kill switches. We first learned about this last summer, and this past May, California passed a law that requires smartphone vendors to implement the feature. In practice, if a smartphone has been stolen, or has been somehow compromised, its user or manufacturer would be able to remotely kill off its usability, something that would be reversed once the phone gets back into its rightful owner’s hands. However, such functionality should be limited to the device’s owner, and no one else. If the owner can disable a phone with nothing but access to a computer or another mobile device, so can Google, Samsung, Microsoft, Nokia or Apple. If the designers of a phone’s operating system can brick a phone, guess who else can do the same? Everybody from the NSA to your friendly neighborhood police force, that’s who. At most, all they’ll need is a convincing argument that they’re acting in the interest of “public safety.”
A listener sent word of research into the cost of internet content without ads. They looked at the amount of money spent on internet advertising last year in the U.K., and compared it to the number of U.K. internet users. On average, each user would have to pay about £140 ($230) to make up for the lost revenue of an ad-free internet. In a survey, 98% of consumers said they wouldn’t be willing to pay that much for the ability to browse without advertisements.
However, while most consumers regard ads as a necessary trade-off to keep the internet free, they will go to great lengths to avoid advertising they do not wish to see. Of those surveyed, 63 per cent said they skip online video ads ‘as quickly as possible’ – a figure that rises to 75 per cent for 16-24 year olds. Over a quarter of all respondents said they mute their sound and one in five scroll away from the video. 16 per cent use ad blocking software and 16 per cent open a new browser window or tab.
A Swedish father has come under fire for taking his two sons on a trip to Israel, the West Bank and occupied Syria in order to teach them the reality of war. [Carl-Magnus Helgegren is] a journalist, university teacher, and proactive dad. And like so many other dads, Helgegren had to have the violent video-game conversation with his two sons, Frank and Leo, aged ten and 11 respectively. “We were sitting at the dinner table last autumn, and my kids started telling me about this game they wanted to play, the latest Call of Duty game, and told me about the guns and missions,” Helgegren told The Local on Friday. So Helgegren struck a deal. The family would take a trip to a city impacted by real war. The boys would meet people affected, do interviews, and visit a refugee camp. And when they came back home, they would be free to play whatever games they chose.
Third-party game engines are wonderful creations, allowing developers to skip a lengthy and complicated part of the development process and spend more time on content creation. But each engine has its own strengths and weaknesses, and they may not be apparent at the beginning of a project. If you realize halfway through that your game doesn’t work well on the engine you picked, what do you do? Jeff LaMarche describes how he and his team made the difficult decision to throw out all their work with Unity and start over with Unreal. He describes some technical limitations, like Unity’s 32-bit nature, and some economic ones, like needing to pay $500 per person for effective version control. He notes that Unreal Engine 4 has its problems, too, but the biggest reason to switch was this: “Our team just wasn’t finding it easy to collaborate. We weren’t gelling as a cohesive team and we often felt like the tools were working against us.”
The much lauded Oculus Rift DK2 is in high demand. Shipping began at the end of July and Oculus says they’ve already shipped more than 20,000 of their 60,000 orders. The company recently updated their order page to indicate that new units are expected to ship starting in October. The Oculus Rift DK2 is the company’s second development kit which offers a number of major improvements over the original kit, called the DK1, which was the result of a successful Kickstarter back in August, 2012. Although the DK2 is intended for developers, the company openly offers the VR headset up for sale to anyone interested for $350. The Oculus Rift DK2s most notable enhancements are a higher resolution display and positional tracking capability as well as a number of other under-the-hood enhancements make the DK2 a huge improvement over its predecessor.
Game developer Crytek’s problems have been detailed recently from various sources, and it’s now clear that it wasn’t just the company’s UK studios that were affected. Crytek announced today that it has officially moved development of its F2P shooter Hunt: Horrors of the Guilded Age to a German developer, ignoring the fact that the majority of the US team had apparently already quit the company. The problem? Just as in the UK, the US employees weren’t getting paid. In a separate announcement, Crytek also declared that development of the Homefront series had passed entirely to developer Deep Silver. The company has stated, “On completion of the proposed acquisition, the Homefront team from Crytek’s Nottingham studio would transfer their talents to Koch Media in compliance with English law and continue their hard work on upcoming shooter, Homefront: The Revolution. Both parties hope to finalize and implement a deal soon.” It’s hard to see this as good news for Crytek. The company can make all the noise it wants about moving from a development studio to a publisher model, but Crytek as a company was always known for two things — the CryEngine itself, adapted for a handful of titles and the Crysis series. Without those factors, what’s left?
An anonymous listener writes with a teardown from iFixit of the Oculus Rift Development Kit 2:
“iFixit’s teardown reveals lots of interesting hardware within, including 40 infrared LEDs, a well-organized motherboard, and a display panel lifted directly from a Samsung Galaxy Note 3. They also took apart the IR tracking camera for good measure.”
The review is the usual iFixit blend of funny, concise and technical; they include a nice shot showing those IR sources embedded in the plastic of the frame. Why the straight-from-a-phone display? “This seems to make economical sense, since Oculus is working to ship something like 45,000 DK2s—a goodly number for a mid-development prototype, but certainly not enough to warrant a fully custom display.”